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Vol. LVIII, No. 10
May 19, 2006

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NIH Research Zone: Easy Street for Teachers at NSTA

At this year's 54th annual National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference, more than 11,000 attendees had an easy stroll through the NIH Research Zone, collecting free educational resources offered by the institutes and centers. Catering to kindergarten through college-level science teachers, the conference was held at a place touted to be the "newest and largest convention center on the West Coast," the Anaheim Convention Center in California.

OSE conference coordinator Terry Clark was honored at this year's conference.  
For the second year in a row, NIH booths were grouped together to form an agency-specific aisle (the NIH Research Zone). After entering beneath the NIH banner, teachers could easily maneuver the area while gaining a more accurate sense of what NIH is. They typically left the zone gripping overstuffed goodie bags stamped with IC logos, and a poster or two wedged under their arms.

Numerous attendees thought that "the grouping of NIH resources made the zone one of the most important areas of the exhibit floor for meeting [the teachers'] needs," a NIDA representative noted. The zone also benefited exhibitors, making it easier to "refer people to other agencies for more appropriate information on their topics of inquiry." One great advantage of grouping the booths was that it gave NIH "a real presence at this huge meeting," said an NHGRI representative.

After 2 years of working with NSTA officials, NIH realized a small victory — the Research Zone is now listed on the 2007 exhibit application as a "preferred location," alongside other neighborhoods more prosaically named: chemistry/physics, space science, and life science. The preferred designation will make things much easier for IC conference planners who sign up for next year's event.

Office of Science Education conference coordinator Terry Clark was largely responsible for making the zone a reality, and was honored at this year's conference. She received NSTA's Outstanding Service Award. "We started this award to recognize individuals who go above and beyond in contribution to the Exhibit Hall," said an NSTA official. Clark hopes to expand the NIH Research Zone in the years to come.